General Hotdoggery—Yeah, you don't have to tell me twice: Hot dogs and sausage and all their meaty kin are a disturbing lot. If you really think about it (something I try to do as seldom as possible), they're little more than a matrix of pig lips and fannies, finely minced and mechanically extruded into faux intestinal casings. Sounds vile ... but, man, do they taste good. I'm sorry. And I know I'm burning in hell. But I know that at least some of you must be with me, because hot dogs are making a major comeback all across town.
Like the other day, a reader called me to enthuse about Chicago Beef, a new Chicago-style dog house in the old Doc & Mz. V's building (on Isleta, a few blocks south of Rio Bravo). Then, a few hours later, one of the owners called--a very nice man named Tom Epley. He says he moved here from Chicago about 25 years ago “for the green chile” but, until opening his own restaurant, had yet to enjoy the ultimate satisfaction of biting into a hot, Italian beef sandwich like they make back home. The sandwich he's referring to consists of thinly sliced beef from the bottom round that’s stuffed into a split Italian roll. Then some lucky cook gets to pour au jus (fancy talk for beef drippings) all over the thing. Tom says that through his own scientific research, he's concluded that 50 percent of Chicagoans eat their Italian beef sandwiches with sautéed mushroom and bell peppers, while the other half smothers theirs in Giardiniera, a cold antipasto of mixed, pickled vegetables. Giardiniera was invented in Chicago, and Tom has it shipped down by the bucketful. I had to go down and see this place for myself.
Chicago Beef has a tight little menu of hot, Chicago-style sandwiches (the Italian beef, sausage, meatball, bratwurst and that dang hot dog), ranging from $2.99-$4.99 a pop. A basket of thick, exquisitely fresh-tasting fries or onion rings will tack on an extra two bucks. The soft drinks are bottomless, and if you order one of those fry baskets, they're free. There's also a free hot and cold condiment bar, which allows patrons to transform their lowly dogs into Coney Islands, chilis or Chicagos, or anything else they think tastes good. I give it two buns up. You can find Chicago Beef at 3905 Isleta SW, from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. every blessed day.
Follow me Downtown on Friday, Sept. 22, where Drew's “New-England-style” hot dogs will at last open on Central between Fifth and Sixth Streets. What's New England-style, you ask? As far as I can tell, the bun is flat on the outside. Thrilling stuff.
A new place called Dogz opened in the shopping center at Paseo and Wyoming, but I have yet to try it myself. If you go, let me know. And finally, Top Dog on Menaul is in the process of building a brand-new, state-of-the-art hot dog facility a few steps down the street. The “new” Top Dog will open just as soon as they're done calibrating the laser-guided relish dispensers and subatomic bun warmers.